The SLENZ Update – No 5 September 10, 2008

Compiled/prepared by John Waugh/Johnnie Wendt

That SLEDcc gabfest

Image courtesy of Rik Panganiban and TMJ

Second Life could be a promising educational platform under the right circumstances, according to The Metaverse Journal’s coverage of the Second Life Education Community Convention (SLEDcc) education conference at Tampa in Florida and in SL over the last weekend.

“However, not only does Linden Lab need to make preparations at their end to make the magic happen (See following story), there are plenty of opportunities available for educators, and the wider public, to do their bit to support and improve education on the Second Life grids, TMJ concludes.

In an article headed “SLEDcc: focusing on fun, fruition, and finances”, TMJ published wrap-ups of three keynote speeches given over the course of the weekend, each with a different focus on the issues facing education in virtual environments. Read them here: http://www.metaversejournal.com/2008/09/09/sledcc-focusing-on-fun-fruition-and-finances/

Rik Reil, in SL in his roundup on Rikomatic said, the 400 educators attending the conference in person firmly made the case that some of the most vital and innovative work in the virtual world was being done by the education sector. Read his article here: http://www.rikomatic.com/blog/2008/09/virtual-educato.html#more

For other slurls/urls to some of the better comments on the successful conference in Tampa and links to blogs etc you need go no further than Quadropop Tree’s: http://twitter.com/malburns

Downtime on SL!

Stan Trevena, director, Information and Technology Services, Modesto City Schools, recently made the point that all those currently using Second Life for classroom use need to be aware of, and plan for, downtime.

“It’s not a matter of if, but rather when (and how often) it will go down,” he said.

He was replying on SLED to a question raised by Scott Diener, Associate Director, IT Services Academic & Collaborative Technologies, at the the University of Auckland.

“The SL platform is far from stable, and even a casual encounter with it should tell you that,” Stan said.  I can only heartily concur. This is made worse in New Zealand by our third world-standard telecommunications systems.

“This stuff is still cutting edge, and it’s not cutting edge if you don’t bleed a bit,” Stan said of SL, noting he had vented more than a few times about the stability, but was something that was just are not going to occur at this point.

He said he believed that stability would only come when the servers were distributed, and SL got away from the grid model.

“… there is a ceiling for concurrent usage and that number has not improved significantly in the past year and a half,” he said. “ And I’ve seen nothing to indicate that it’s going to make any huge leaps anytime soon. When we are able to host our own servers/grids we will have stability.

There is reason for optimism, however, Stan noted: Linden is working on distributed servers (with cross server teleportation like IBM’s project), OpenSim is maturing (not fast enough), Sun’s Wonderland just went to v0.4 (v0.5 will be adding a new graphics engine and avatar model), Croquet is out there, and Google’s Lively is retuning and focusing on business and education needs in their hit list.

Stan’s blogs are at: http://pacificrimx.wordpress.com and http://virtued.wordpress.com

For the record Scott Diener had asked in SLED about the scalability of the SL platform following the cancellation of a New Zealand SL Educators meeting  because with 67,333 current logins SL could handle no more load.

Diener recently asked Linden Labs how I could get a full refund for his university sim because of highly unreliable performance.

He noted that for SL teaching, “we must have assurances that service will be available” on a 99.99% reliable basis because classes cannot be rescheduled and the time is “irrevocably lost”.

His Linden Labs reply to a request for a discussion about a Service Level Agreement (SLA) to see if there might be a way forward left him somewhat frustrated, to say the least.

If education is the new byword of SL, the Lindens do need to get their act together. Otherwise OpenSim and others will take their place.

Kiwis 2ndbest?

One wonders when TelstarClear is going to provide New Zealand with the same service in Second Life as they are now providing their Aussie clients.

In Australia Telstra doesn’t meter its BigPond customers on Second Life. In other words they get their bandwidth usage for free…. unlike New Zealand where TelstraClear’s head honcho is not much interested in high speed virtual worlds, noting that third world bandwidth speeds are quick enough for Kiwis and they don’t need any faster internet. Of course, they don’t when TelstraClear is creaming it. Its only unmetered portals in this country are for a few teenage games.

However, Telstra Australia, which has 16 sims, has taken the next step in the ongoing evolution of its foray into SL with the launch of a staffed customer service centre. Telstra-employed avatars are to be available between 11am and 10pm Monday to Friday AEST, to answer “service-related queries”.

It would be great it TelstarClear could give Kiwis a similar leg up or are we just being ripped off by both the big telco organisations.

Is that a train?

There is some perception of light at the end of the tunnel as has been noted by Roland Legrand (www.metanomics.net/blog/roland-legrand).

Based on Gartner’s Hype Cycle public virtual worlds are in the Trough of Disillusionment (after the hype), but hold potential for the future, he said late August. In fact, he pointed to Gartner’s latest prediction that public virtual worlds would see mainstream adoption within two-five years, as reported by Virtual Worlds News reports based on Gartner’s report Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies.

There also were signs, he said, that the perception was changing with mainstream media such as The Economist and BusinessWeek publishing some positive articles.

2 Responses

  1. I think Stan Trevena’s comments show the extent to which we all, as consumers, might have fallen victim to “cutting edge” explanations for poor technology performance. Too often (my opinion) we are willing to simply ‘be grateful’ for what we have and accept the breakdowns. I obviously don’t agree with that orientation.

    What is crucial to us as educators, however, is the realities around precious meeting times with students. If we have to plan to NOT have a technology working, then it might be best to NOT plan to use it in the first place. That was my point in my SLED post – reliability is a precondition for adoption. Clearly there will be needs to experiment with new technologies – and those will by definition be shakey. But I think we need to have clear and hard-hitting conversations with Linden (and others) so they understand the contingencies under which quality education must operate.

    On their Grid website, Linden claim that an education institution can get:

    Increased Productivity
    Effective Collaboration
    Improved Communication
    Enhanced Engagement with your Customers or Audience
    Reduced Business Costs

    In my opinion these are misleading claims, as they are impossible to achieve when system reliability is so low. So back to Stan’s comments: if Linden change their claims to “we will help you bleed a bit”, I will be happy with the scenario. Otherwise, I think a few of us have to continue to shout about the situation. :-)

  2. Scott,
    I can only concur – Lindens have got to get their act together completely if they don’t want to be taken over by other more user friendly virtual worlds (OpenSim – that is why I published your correspondence.
    We’ve all got to shout a little in all forums – but in the meantime we must acquaint ourselves with at least one virtual world if not more and learn from the experience because that is where the net world is going.
    You might be interested in the number of kids using virtual world’s and the predictions in my latest SLENZ update due out today.

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